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  • If I were in the place of you, I would tell him to stop crying.

Can I rewrite the above sentence in the following way?

  • If I were you/If I were in the place of you, I would more likely say him to stop crying.

Is a to necessary before say him to stop crying?

3 Answers 3

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The modal verbs can/could, may/might, must, shall/should, will/would always take bare infinitive complements: infinitives without the to marker. This doesn't change when you place an adverbial between the modal and its infinitive complement:

I would say ... I would more likely say ...

There are however, other problems with your rewrite.

First, the original sentence is unidiomatic. We almost never use of phrases to express the genitive of personal pronouns.

If I were in your place I would tell him to stop crying.

Second, you cannot simply replace tell with say, for two reasons:

  • tell may be "ditransitive", taking both a Direct and an Indirect Object, but say is "monotransitive", taking only a Direct Object. With say the person addressed must be expressed with a to preposition phrase.

    I told this to him or I told him this.
    I said this to him but not *I said him this.

  • tell may take a marked infinitival clause (to DO something) in place of a nominal Direct Object. In this case the Indirect Object is taken to be the subject of the infinitival clause, and tell is understood to have the sense "command" or "instruct":

    I told him to stop crying = I commanded him that he must stop crying.

    say cannot be used this way; it does not take infinitival complements.

    *I said him to stop crying.

    And say does not have the sense command; this can be expressed only indirectly, by employing a that clause which includes a term which has the sense command:

    I said to him that he must stop crying.

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  • Since "I told this to him" is correct, can I say-"I said stop crying to him"? And can I use "I would more likely say"... without "to" before "say"?
    – Azahar Ali
    Dec 22, 2015 at 12:52
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    @Azahar Only if stop crying is a direct quote: I said "Stop crying" to him. And see the new stuff I've just added at the end. Dec 22, 2015 at 12:58
  • I (nominative) said [implied:something] (accusative) to him (dative) Dec 22, 2015 at 14:45
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    @adolfgarlic W e l l ... not exactly. In English, you can't leave the object of say implicit. And English doesn't distinguish accusative and dative. They're useful 'handles' for people whose native language employs those cases, but they're no more relevant to English than they would be to a language which employs different cases for he as Indirect Object and he as the oblique of the pronoun corresponding to to. Dec 22, 2015 at 14:55
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    @MiloPrice Yes, I should be a shade less absolute! ... But those are both things that would only occur as responses with the implicit object already explicit in the immediately preceding discourse. Dec 22, 2015 at 17:47
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First of all, we can't use "say" without a preposition "to" if we want to mention an addressee:

"I'm your cousin. We've never met before." - she said to me.

But:

"I'm your cousin. We've never met before." - she told me.

If we use "tell" and indirect speech, "to" will be necessary. If we use say, we should use direct speech and refrain from using "to". So your example will look like this:

If I were you, I would more likely tell him to stop crying.

If I were you, I would more likely say to him: "Stop crying".

You can find more information on the usage of say/tell for example here.

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If I may, a better variation of the sentence would be :

If I were you, I would probably tell him to stop crying.

Adding a 'to' before 'say him to stop crying' isn't right. And I would use 'tell' instead of 'say', but that's up to you.

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  • That has the most natural flow I believe.
    – Jdahern
    Dec 22, 2015 at 21:51

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